Friday, August 25, 2023

Poetry Sisters Play with an Exquisite Corpse

This month's challenge was writing a poem from the lines generated as we played with an exquisite corpse. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about this form.

Exquisite corpse (from the original French term cadavre exquis, literally exquisite cadaver), is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule (e.g., "The adjective noun adverb verb the adjective noun." as in "The green duck sweetly sang the dreadful dirge.") or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed.

In terms of process, Tanita started us off by writing one line of poetry and selecting a clunker from Linda Mitchell's collection. She DM'd her lines to Sara and we were off, each poet sending an original line and a clunker to someone else in the group. When Kelly wrote her lines, she sent them to Tanita, who wrote one more to finish this thing. We only shared our lines with one other person, so it wasn't until we met Sunday on Zoom that we shared the original lines we wrote and the clunkers we selected. Surprisingly, the lines hung together well. Here's the poem our blind exchange generated. The clunker lines appear in red. 

They say the mind is garden-like, with thoughts as sprouting seeds (Tanita)
but I'm left holding cuttings I'm not sure where to plant
Weedy-thick, the prickly buds of odd logic bloom: (Sara)
You don't cry anymore, but you sing all the words.
Each line in a different language as the light shifts, (Liz)
trees turned so orange the road looked blue.
Words tangle, colors muddy in the palette. (Mary Lee)
I am no longer winsome to the sun.
a whole sun’s rise to share
there goes the one that got away (Tricia)
found a bit of sunflower
and plucked every petal (by the way, he loves me) (Laura)
and then I remembered (Kelly)
that’s what you wrote about the green beans
Stockpile, then, that snap and sass to sweeten your September. (Tanita)

I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to approach this challenge, so while we were each wrestling with the lines we generated, I decided to try crafting a poem from only the words and phrases listed in the poem. I normally write all my poems by hand, but this time around, I pasted the poem in one column and wrote in the adjacent column. As I selected words or phrases, I highlighted them to mark which I'd used. If I repeated a word, I made it bold. I gave myself the freedom to change word endings and tenses and even cut words into parts. This gave me even more words to choose from. In the end, I did add the words she and her to the poem, but otherwise stuck to the constraint I gave myself. Here's what the Word doc looked like when I finished.
And here is the poem that emerged from our collective lines.

The One That Got Away

She was snap and sass
not prickly bud, but sprouting seed
winsome as sweet September
she loved sunflowers
stockpiled green beans
sang to the sun
her thoughts bloomed in different languages
words all weedy and tangled

I remember each word she said
in the blue of the sun’s rise
the way she held that flower
plucked every petal
she looked to the road
orange and thick with trees
then turned and left

holding cuttings found
about her garden
I’m not sure where to plant them
I don’t cry anymore
but I am no longer whole

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2023. All rights reserved.

You can read my Poetry Sisters' pieces at the links below. 

    Would you like to try the next challenge? Next month, we’re writing in the form of diminishing verse. You can learn more about this form at Writer's Digest. You can also find helpful information at Astra PoeticaWord Wool, and YeahWrite. Wikipedia calls these Pruning Poems. Are you in? Good! The Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION. If you’re still game, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on September 29th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.We look forward to reading your poems!  

    Do take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Linda Baie at Teacher Dance. Happy poetry Friday, friends!  


    1. If Liz is the Bonsai-poetry Queen, you are the Slice-It-Dice-It Poetry Queen! I love seeing your process, and I'm excited to try this with a chunk of text. And that ending. Oof. You found gold in our words!!!

    2. Oh, my! You took the transformation part of the challenge to a new level, and the results are glorious. This poem slowed me right down, and made me ache for what was....beautifully done, Tricia!

    3. You edited the clunk out of the clunkers! Beautifully done!

    4. Oh, Tricia -- I adore this transformation. It's a reversal of sorts, but also something brand new, and I love love love what with you did it, and the 'she' that emerged!

    5. You flipped the order and leaned in to the nostalgic and melancholic energy. The story you pulled out comes through clearly, the main character intriguing and absent... I like it!!

    6. There's so much specific in here, Tricia, and yet it's so oddly universal. I couldn't figure out if it was about a lost love (that's what I thought as it began--maybe because of the title) or a lost parent (which is where I ended up). And it didn't matter in the end, because I could feel the feeling, no matter who it was for.

    7. It's a great idea to see what you've done, Tricia, with the words you received, then ones your rule helped you choose, another poignant love poem that, like others, creates a wonderful vision of what was lost. I've loved everyone's poem this exercise and your ending brings such an honest feeling. "winsome as sweet September" remains one gorgeous description of a young one, too.

    8. Tricia, wow, what a lovely way to honor the offerings of your Poetry Sisters. "winsome as sweet September" and "in the blue of the sun’s rise" are two of my favorites of your moving phrases.

    9. Such beauty that flows from your new poem, Tricia, and I LOVE those opening lines:
      She was snap and sass
      not prickly bud, but sprouting seed
      winsome as sweet September

    10. Trisha, the first three lines brought me to a time long ago but in a poetic way. This memory you created from the original poem is something I am trying out myself. Memories pop up from your word choices as the child remembers. This poem seems effortless.